Relatives of political prisoners and victims of the Ortega Massacre and ongoing repression in Nicaragua
Division among the two main opposition blocs generates uncertainty about the future. Victims of the repression demand justice, freedom for the political prisoners and the safe return of those in exile.
By Yader Luna and Ivette Munguia (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – Susana Lopez of the April Mother’s Association feels profoundly disheartened. The opposition leaders’ failure to form a united front against Daniel Ortega for the November 7 elections filled her with disappointment. Last week, she was following closely the news of talks between the Citizens’ Alliance and the National Coalition. However, upon seeing these negotiations fail, she’s concluded that “there wasn’t any political will” on either side.
It’s been nearly three years since her son, Gerald Vazquez, was killed. His mother now understands one of the last conversations she had with him. “When Gerald was occupying [the Managua UNAN university campus], he told me: ‘They’ve left us all alone’. The students never imagined that [the police attack] could happen in the middle of a political dialogue (…) At this moment, I feel that same indignation,” Susana Lopez affirmed.
She laments the lack of unity among the opposition. This political panorama has diminished her hopes of one day obtaining justice for her son’s killing. Still, she asserted, her group remains firmly committed to “keeping alive the memory of our children”.
The April mothers have all lost a child during the 2018 killings, perpetrated by the Ortega regime. Susana declared that the mothers will continue fighting for justice, even though “none of the [opposition blocs] care to mention them.” She feels that the major opposition organizations “have agreed to play the government’s game.”
Exiles see a hard road ahead
Singer-songwriter Jandir Rodriguez has been exiled in Guatemala since December 2018. The lack of an agreement between opposition groups put an end to his hopes of returning home soon.
“There was a light of hope for our return. In my case, at least, I was thinking of going home to vote, even with all the risks that it signified. Instead, what we have now is a deep disappointment. Many of my Nicaraguan friends were hoping to return, just like I was,” he recounted.
Rodriguez is the author of the song “April Heroes”. He was threatened after the release of his song, which is now considered a hymn of the civic struggle. The opposition’s failure to achieve unity has left him “sad and indignant”. Not to mention their failure to rally behind a single presidential candidate.
“It’s regrettable that personal interests and the interests of an inner circle have prevailed. Such interests have predominated over the search for justice, the return of the exiles and the freedom of the political prisoners,” commented Rodriguez.
He believes that people lack motivation to vote. “The unity movement seemed to be trying to change the rules of the game”, in the face of elections controlled by the Ortega regime. “What’s left now is a loss of credibility, on the part of the Nicaraguan population and the international community. What you see is an opposition divided by a struggle for power,” Rodriguez noted.
“They’ve ignored us”
Six organizations have joined together to urge the opposition Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy not to abandon them, but to see unity. The six organizations are comprised of victims of the repression that Nicaragua has experienced since April 2018. Their statement on May 13, also asked the Civic Alliance to seek unity with the other opposition sector. Neither was present at the hotel in the capital city, where there’d been hopes of signing a yearned-for unity agreement.
One of those heading this commission is Grethel Gomez, president of the Victims of April organization. She pleaded with tears in her eyes: “Don’t let us down now. We can’t do anything without unity.”
Now, without a signed unification agreement, Grethel feels hurt and ignored. She fears that “the victims will continue being victims, without justice or freedom.”
“The lack of transparency on the part of both opposition agglomerations hurts us. We question their obsession with the electoral route, when nothing’s been accomplished. There’s been neither freedom for the prisoners, nor guarantees for the return of the exiles, nor an end to the police siege. In that sense, we feel that there’s no solidarity with the victims,” she explained.
Gomez added another criticism: “They haven’t been clear in communicating the strategy they intend to follow to defeat the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.”
If the opposition participates in an election divided into four bands, Gomez foresees, “What they’ll do is assure victory for the FSLN. They’ll be lending themselves to legitimizing an electoral farse.”
“The cry of the April Rebellion was never to become a second political force or to gain a deputy’s seat. We victims dream of justice (…) For that reason we’re thinking of refusing to recognize the opposition. They don’t represent the people,” affirmed Grethel Gomez.
Personal interests got in the way of unity
Carlos Hernandez is assistant coordinator of the Association of Relatives of the Political Prisoners. He feels that the failed opposition unity ended all hopes for the release of his brother, Edwin Hernandez, during this month of May. “We know that unity is necessary, in order to pressure the government. That movement towards unity has unfortunately dissipated, due to the personal interests of some of the members,” he stated.
Members of his organization had also placed their sights on the May 12 session of the Organization of American States. They were hoping that the meeting could generate enough pressure to force the regime to free some of the political prisoners. That session was held to discuss – once more – the situation in Nicaragua. “But sadly, with this divisionism, with this quarrel they have [between the opposition groups], that wasn’t possible,” Hernandez stated with regret.
“We supposedly share a common objective, but regrettably, they [the political leaders] are pursuing their own interests. That’s what we see, and that’s what the international community perceives in the news coming out of this country,” criticized Hernandez.
They’re ignoring the victims and the international community
Former political prisoner Levis Artola said the lack of unity among the opposition amounts to “a lack of respect” for the regime’s victims. “It’s spitting on the blood of the more than 300 murdered. It’s turning your back on the international community that’s been supporting us during these three years of struggle” against the Ortega regime.
Artola called the attitude of the current political leaders of the opposition “intransigent, irresponsible and reckless.” If they remain disunited, they’re facilitating an electoral victory for Ortega and the FSLN.
“It’s the same reckless attitude that the liberal parties brought to the electoral arena in 2006. They each believed they had popular backing and didn’t think about the fact that they’d be dividing the vote. They underestimated each other, out of their self-interest, the desire for complete power and political pettiness,” Levis Artola accused.
Three hundred twenty-eight Nicaraguans were killed during the 2018 protests against the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. According to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, there were thousands of injured, while over 100,000 Nicaraguans fled the country and are living in exile. Some of the exiles left at the beginning of the government massacre, while others left later, due to continued government persecution. Today, over 120 political prisoners remain in Nicaragua’s jails.
“They’ve usurped our struggle”
Brenda Gutierrez, president of the Committee for the Liberation of the Political Prisoners, also called the situation in the country “disappointing” and “alarming”. That’s her evaluation, following the failure of the opposition groups to forge accords.
“It became clear that they weren’t going to arrive at an agreement, and they didn’t get anywhere. We see it as an alarming and sad situation. This keeps the country moving in the same direction we’re in now, under this cruel dictatorship,” she stated.
Brenda declared that there’s “great bewilderment” among the members of her organization. They don’t know where the opposition is headed, while the victims continue clamoring for justice. “They’re not thinking about the population,” she insisted.
“The opposition leaders who say they represent us couldn’t set aside their ambitions for power. They showed themselves to be indifferent to the people. The traditional political parties have usurped our civic struggle,” said Gutierrez.